Keeping your valves oiled is by far the single most important maintenance item for your trumpet. It should be done at least a couple of times per week, but more often if you’re playing a lot. Think of it as keeping up on oil changes for your car’s engine.
When deciding which valve oil to use, you’ll read many different opinions. The most common question centers around whether to use a “natural” valve oil (common brands are Holton and Al Cass) or a synthetic valve oil.
In my personal experience, I have had good luck with a natural valve oil (Al Cass) with my old trumpet (an Olds Special from around 1970). However, on my Yamaha 6335 (circa 2000), I found that no matter how often I oiled the valves with Al Cass, the casings would oxidize and the valves would not be dependable within a few months. I would thus often have to have the valves chemically cleaned at my local music shop. I then tried switching to a synthetic oil (Hetman Lightweight) and the difference was night and day! I could go for weeks without touching the horn and valves are still fine. I now also use the synthetic oil on my son’s trumpet, which is a student model horn.
Read about Hetman 1 – Light Piston Lubricant
Whichever valve oil you choose, be sure to keep in mind these tips when oiling your valves:
- Be very careful when lifting the valve out of its casing – you only need to lift it about halfway.
- Just a few drops of oil is enough – rotating the valve will spread the oil.
- Be sure to line up the valve guide (you’ll feel it click) so that the holes line up
- If you do switch to a synthetic valve oil, make sure you first completely remove the old oil off both the valves and valve casings – usually natural and synthetic oil do not mix well.